Tis the season for big think pieces and lists on what It All Meant in 2008. Fortunately, you'll find neither here.
Instead, I thought it would fun (and easier!) to poll the collective Zeitgeist (sorry Google) of Facebook for 2008's trends. I used Facebook's "Lexicon" service which has been relatively ignored since it launched last April. Lexicon is a competitor to Google Trends -- which has been a object of affection on these pages for a couple of years). The service charts words that are posted on Facebook profile walls.
First, the economy is on everyone's minds. And, this chart shows that there is little disconnect from the government approved recession and the one that people are feeling and discussing. The searched term is "recession"...
The real world manifestations of this is that more and more people are glumly discussing lay-offs than happily mentioning pay-checks. "Laid off" in blue and "paycheck" in yellow....
Oh, yes, there was an election this year, right? Below is unsurprising track of it. Obama in blue, McCain in yellow and Palin in green....
This is a tech policy blog. Yet, none of the familiar terms here were broad or interesting enough to resonate on Facebook. Still, the below gives you a hint of what Facebook users value. "Privacy" in blue and "censorship" doesn't even show up on the chart.
Here are the sports that people cared about in 2008. Obviously, football (blue) gets the benefit of being a term that hits three different sports around the world. I was surprised that hockey (purple) held up reasonably well. I did once hear that some crazy percentage of Canadians were on Facebook and this would seem to prove it. Basketball is green and baseball yellow.
What about the two hottest gadgets of 2008? The iPhone's (yellow) 2.0 3G launch boosted it over the summer, but the Wii (blue) wins overall.
I've long suspected that Facebook current most-favored utility is as a venue to share baby photos with friends you never see anymore because you are too busy as a over-streched 30 and 40-something. This would trump its previous top utility of being a venue to share photos of you and your 20-something friends beer-bonging the previous night. This chart may or may not prove my theory, but it's interesting, nonetheless. "Drunk" is blue and "baby" is yellow. BTW, check out how "drunk" shoots up around New Years and "baby" shoots up approximately a month or so later. Coincidence?
Despite the year's turmoil, "happy" convincingly trumps "sad". Happy holidays to all.
[Note: You can see a recently updated version of Lexicon here that breaks out all sort of interesting demographic and quasi-cross tab information. However, you are not allowed to create your own search terms -- as of yet].